The Illimitable Freedom of the Human Mind: Thomas Jefferson's Ideas of a University


Kathleen Fitzpatrick Theatre Arts West (Building 148)


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2019 Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellowship Lecture

Thomas Jefferson regarded his founding of the University of Virginia as one of his three greatest achievements in life, together with the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

Dr O/Shaughnessy will share how Jefferson’s ideas continue to have relevance to public education in the United States to this very day.

Thomas Jefferson was intimately involved with every aspect of creating the University of Virginia. The execution of this project revealed his greatest talents as a lawyer who drafted the legislation; as a surveyor who personally mapped the grounds; as a politician who cajoled the assembly into supporting him against furious opposition; as an architect who designed the layout, chose the building materials and corresponded with the craftsman; and as an intellectual who developed an innovative curriculum, suggested the books for the library and the criteria for selecting the faculty. This lecture will argue that his vision contained many features that were unique within the United States and more progressive than what would be known as the Ivy League Schools.

A reception will be held immediately following the lecture in the Atrium Foyer of the Arts West Building.

This lecture is presented by The Research Unit in 'Enlightenment, Romanticism, Contemporary Culture' in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne.

Image: The University of Virginia, Charlottesville ©Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello.


Dr Andrew O'Shaughnessy, Vice President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation; The Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello; Professor of History, The Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, University of Virginia.

Andrew O'Shaughnessy is one of the foremost scholars of the American Revolution in the world. His particular expertise relates to the imperial context of the American Revolution in its relationship to Britain. This research and perspective underpins his books which include An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000) and The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution and the Fate of the Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013). The latter received eight national awards including the New York Historical Society American History Book Prize, the George Washington Book Prize, and the Society of Military History Book Prize. He is a coeditor of Old World, New World. America and Europe in the Age of Jefferson (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010) and a coeditor of the Jeffersonian America series published by the University of Virginia Press. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of American History.